This is the second Boeing 737 Max 8 crash in less than 5 months. A similar crash occurred in Indonesia on 29 October 2018 when the Boeing 737 Max 8 operated by Lion Air crashed into the Java Sea barely 12 minutes after take-off, killing all 189 passengers and crew.
Initial investigations showed that air crafts had serious flight control, Angle of attack (AoA) sensor and other instrument failures on that flight and previous flights, coupled with potential design flaws involving the Manoeuvring characteristics augmentation system (MCAS) of the Boeing 737 Max series. These design problems are suspected to the cause of the Ethiopian Airline Flight 302 crash.
Boeing, the manufacturer of the Boeing 737 Max, is the largest aerospace company and biggest manufacturer of commercial jetliners, defence, and space and security systems and also provides aftermarket support to its customers in over 150 countries. They also offer services like satellites, weapons, electronic and defence systems, launch systems, advanced information and communication systems, and performance-based logistics and training.
The company was founded William E. Boeing in 1916 in Seattle, Washington. Boeing today is a merger of the former Boeing with McDonnell Douglas in 1997. In 2018, the company was ranked 19th in the World’s Most Admired Companies list.
Features of Boeing 737 Max 8
The 737 Max 8 is a narrow-body commercial aircraft designed to replace the Boeing 737 New Generation, precisely the 737-800. The aircraft series has between 162 to 178 seats and 5,954 to 7,084 km range. The airplane model has the new Boeing Sky Interior, with modern sculpted walls and window reveals with enhanced LED lighting which makes the interior more spacious. It is designed to fly longer distances, thanks to its new standards in fuel efficiency and performance.
Safety measures taken by state officials and aviation companies with regards to Boeing 737 Max
Grounding of Boeing 737 Max 8
A day after the crash in Ethiopia, Ethiopian Airlines suspended its 737 Max 8 fleet. Other countries worldwide including China, Indonesia, Mongolia and Singapore followed Ethiopia’s example, either voluntarily or by order of local aviation authorities and grounded all Boeing 737 Max airplanes. The Federal Aviation Administration in the US initially refused to ground the aircrafts but later gave in and announced on March 13 that it would comply. Today, all 380 Boeing 737 MAX airplanes worldwide have been grounded. Other countries who do not own Boeing 737 MAX airplanes have banned the aircraft from entering their airspace. Reacting to the grounding, which President Trump referred to as a “big decision”, said “They have to find out what it is. I’m not sure that they know, but I thought we had to do it. We had to take a cautionary route… they have to figure it out fast.”
Despite the worldwide grounding, Boeing; the US plane manufacturer said it “continues to have confidence in the safety of the 737 Max”. After consultation with the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board, it decided to ground the flights “out of an abundance of caution and in order to reassure the flying public of the aircraft’s safety”. Dennis Muilenburg, president, chief executive and chairman of Boeing, also said: “We are doing everything we can to understand the cause of the accidents in partnership with the investigators, deploy safety enhancements and help ensure this does not happen again.”
How does the grounding affect Boeing?
After Ethiopian airline crashed, Boeing stock prices fell to more than 5% on Monday. An aviation expert said the US plane manufacturer is unlikely to see any “material impact” on the long term sales of 737 Max 8.
Apart from the fall in stock prices, some airlines are demanding compensation from Boeing. On March 13, Norwegian Air publicly asked Boeing to compensate the cost incurred from the groundings of the Boeing 737 Max. The CEO of the airline said “it is quite obvious we will not take the cost related to the new aircraft that we have to park temporarily, we will send this bill to those who produced this aircraft”. A senior official from Spice Jet, India said “We will seek compensation from Boeing for the grounding of the aircraft. We will also seek recompense for revenue loss and any kind of maintenance or technical overhaul that the aircraft will have to undergo. This is part of the contract, which we signed with Boeing for all the 737 MAX aircraft”
Apart from demanding compensation from the Boeing, other airlines are cancelling orders, which will put a big hole in the company’s finances. On 14 March, Garuda Indonesia announced the cancellation of 49 orders for Boeing 737 Max 8, mentioning concern for the safety of their passengers. Also, Lion Air intends to drop $22 billion order with Boeing in favour of Airbus aircrafts. Boeing has suspended deliveries of the model but continues production. Analyst say each month of grounding could cost the company $1.8 billion.
The good news for Boeing
All is not lost for Boeing as despite the grounding, some operators like Flydubai which has 11 Boeing 737 Max 8 aircrafts in operation said it remained confident of the safety of the aircraft. In a media statement, a Flydubai spokesman said they are monitoring the situation and continue to be in touch with Boeing, and remain confident in the airworthiness of their fleet, as the safety of passengers and crew is their first priority.
Despite the short-term drop in the company’s stock prices, Saj Ahmed, chief analyst at StrategicAero Research, said Boeing is unlikely to face any long-term impact on the sales of the Boeing 737 Max model. He also said “some airlines have voluntarily stood down their MAX fleets, that doesn’t signify fault – it signifies prudence and wanting to better understand what’s happened and if immediate corrective measures are needed to further enhance the robustness and safety of the 737 MAX.” he also added that many airlines around the world are flying the Max family without any problems.
While waiting for the findings from the black boxes recovered from the crash site Boeing maintains that their aircrafts are safe to fly.
Article from AFRIC editorial.
Credit image/google images/Boeing 737 Max 8.